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Do canopy disturbances drive forest plantations into more natural conditions? A case study from Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, Vietnam.

Vogt, Juliane; Kautz, Markus; Herazo, Martha Liliana Fontalvo; Triet, Tran; Walther, Denny; Saint-Paul, Ulrich; Diele, Karen; Berger, Uta


Juliane Vogt

Markus Kautz

Martha Liliana Fontalvo Herazo

Tran Triet

Denny Walther

Ulrich Saint-Paul

Uta Berger


Large areas of mangrove forests were devastated in South Viet Nam during the second Indochina war. After its end in 1975, extensive reforestation with monocultures took place. Can Gio, one of the biggest replanted sites with about 20,000 ha of mangroves mainly Rhizophora apiculata, was declared a biosphere reserve by the UNESCO in 2000. Although this status now enables progressive forest dynamics, there are still drawbacks resulting from the unnatural character of the plantations. For example, the homogeneous size and age structure as well as the regular arrangement of the planted trees make larger forest stands more vulnerable to synchronized collapsing which can be triggered by stronger winds and storms. A transformation into a more natural forest characterized by a heterogeneous age and size structure and a mixed species composition is of urgent need to avoid a synchronized dieback. In this study we test the capability of natural canopy disturbances (e.g. lightning strikes) to facilitate this transformation.

Canopy gaps created by lightning strikes were detected and quantified by remote sensing techniques. SPOT satellite images from the years 2003, 2005 and 2007 provided information about the spatial distribution, size, shape, and formation frequency of the gaps. Lightning strike gaps were identified based on their shape and size. They form small openings (mean: 0.025 ha) and their yearly probability of occurrence was determined to be approximately 0.012 per hectare. Selected gaps were surveyed in the field in 2008 to complement the remote sensing data and to provide information upon forest structure and regeneration.
Simulation experiments were carried out with the individual-based KiWi mangrove model for quantifying the influence of different lightning regimes on the vertical and horizontal structure of the R. apiculata plantation. In addition, we conducted simulations with a natural and thus randomly generated forest to compare the structure of the two different cultivation types (i.e. plantation and natural forest). The simulation shows that even small disturbances can already partly buffer the risk of cohort senescence of monospecific even-aged plantations. However, after the decline of the plantation, the disturbance regime does not play an important role for further stand development. After the break-up of the initial strongly regular structure of the simulated plantation, a vertical pattern, i.e. height distribution of the trees, similar to the one of the natural forest, emerged quickly. However, the convergence for the horizontal structure i.e. the distance of trees to their nearest neighbor, took twice as long as for the vertical structure. Our results highlight the importance of small disturbances such as lightning strikes to mitigate vulnerability against synchronous windfall in homogenous forest structures. Hence, creating small openings artificially may be an appropriate management measure in areas where the frequency of natural small-scale disturbances is low


Vogt, J., Kautz, M., Herazo, M. L. F., Triet, T., Walther, D., Saint-Paul, U., …Berger, U. (2013). Do canopy disturbances drive forest plantations into more natural conditions? A case study from Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, Vietnam. Global and Planetary Change, 110, 249-258.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2013-11
Deposit Date Nov 25, 2013
Print ISSN 0921-8181
Electronic ISSN 1872-6364
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 110
Pages 249-258
Keywords Lightning strike gap; Mangrove plantation; Forest structure;
Canopy disturbance; Mangrove model KIWI;
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